SAN JOSE -- A suspected drunk driver smashed his car into a busy intersection in East San Jose on Sunday night, hitting or rolling into other cars and causing a battery of injuries, and even tried to run away, according to the San Jose Police Department.
The multicar collision was reported just before 9:30 p.m. after a Mercedes carrying four people was seen speeding eastbound on Ocala Avenue toward Capitol Expressway. It broadsided a vehicle at the intersection, then rolled and hit several other cars and a streetlight.
"The (on-site) lieutenant said it was a pretty horrific scene," police spokesman Officer Albert Morales said.
Moments later, the unidentified driver tried to flee the scene, police said, but was caught by responding officers.
Those officers used fire extinguishers to quell flames that erupted in the wrecked Mercedes. Crews from the San Jose Fire Department extricated the three passengers left inside the badly mangled car.
Morales said officers' quick action toward the fire likely saved their lives.
"Firefighters said had they not used the extinguisher, they probably would've burned to death," he said.
All told, eight vehicles were involved in the crash.
The four occupants of the Mercedes, including the driver, were taken to the hospital -- two by helicopter -- with what were deemed life-threatening injuries. Police said six other motorists were taken to the hospital for a range of injuries; details were not immediately available but Morales said they were expected to survive.
A police officer suffered smoke inhalation from fighting the car fire and was treated at the hospital and released, Morales said.
An investigation into the wreck is ongoing, but police said there was strong suspicion at the scene that alcohol and vehicle speed were major factors.
Police said once the suspect driver, who was not immediately identified, is released from the hospital, they plan to pursue felony DUI, hit-and-run and resisting arrest charges against him.
The massive police response left patrol units stretched thin over the rest of the city, which was evident when they were called 20 minutes later to what would become a fatal hit-and-run collision involving a male pedestrian near Senter and Balfour roads.
"The city was wiped out last night," Morales said.
City crews spent the rest of the night cleaning up debris, and the intersection was reopened around 7:30 a.m. Monday.
Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.